It’s easy to miss some of the best offerings on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. From locally-loved restaurants to places to watch the sun set, here’s what to do on the two famous Cape Cod Islands.
About the Islands
Martha’s Vineyard: This island is only accessible by ferry or plane, though the most popular way of getting there is taking the 45-minute ferry from Woods Hole, Massachusetts. There are two main areas to stay on the island: Edgartown, located on the Southeast tip of the island, and Oak Bluffs, where most ferries arrive. You can bring your car over on the ferry if you make reservations well in advance, but there are plenty of places to rent bikes or cars, and the island has a public bus system.
Nantucket: You’ll also need to book ferry or plane ticket to access Nantucket (fun fact: the island is commonly referred to as ACK, which is its airport code). The most popular way to get to the island is to take the hour long “fast ferry” from Hyannis, Massachusetts. Ferries arrive in the town center, which is also the main area visitors stay. You can also stay in the village of Siasconset (Sconset) on the eastern end of the island, which has a few hotels, restaurants, and stores. As with Martha’s Vineyard, you can bring your car on the ferry (reservations needed), there are plenty of places to rent bikes or cars, and there’s a public bus system.
Martha’s Vineyard: Menemsha Beach in Chilmark on the “other side” of the island is great for a day trip; Katama Beach or South Beach is my favorite as it has drive-on access and is great for all ages; and family-friendly Joseph Sylvia State Beach in Oak Bluffs is the easiest to get to via bike if you’re staying in Oak Bluffs. Other good spots include Lighthouse Beach in Edgartown and Lobsterville Beach (formerly Gay Head) in Aquinnah.
Nantucket: Jetties Beach is protected by Nantucket Sound and is great for families; Cisco Beach is popular for surfers because of its large waves; Nobadeer Beach has drive-on access and is popular among college kids; Surfside Beach is arguably the most popular and crowded on the island; Siasconset Beach offers a more mellow scene due to its location farther from town; and Madaket Beach has a heavy surf but is a great place to go if you want to avoid the tourist crowds.
Martha’s Vineyard: Anderson’s Bike Rentals offers one of the best deals on the island. Located right off the Oak Bluffs ferry dock, Anderson’s offers a three-day special for two bike rentals for only $95. There are more than 44 miles of bike trails on Martha’s Vineyard, including the picturesque Oak Bluffs to Edgartown path.
Nantucket: Young’s Bicycle Shop is located right by the ferry docks and offers bike rentals for $100 for the week. There are more than 30 miles of bike paths on the island and you can bike to almost any of the popular beaches from town; check out the routes here.
Martha’s Vineyard: Garde East in Vineyard Haven is higher end, but one of the best and newest places on the island; Atlantic in Edgartown is a local favorite; Larsen’s Fish Market in Chilmark is great for takeout seafood; and Skinny’s Fat Sandwiches are great for packing for the beach, located in both Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. And, don’t miss a late-night donut at Back Door Donuts in Oak Bluffs—they’re open till 12:58 a.m.
Nantucket: Cru, located right on the marina, is consistently a great choice for drinks and dinner; Millie’s, located on Madakat Beach, has awesome tacos and other quick bites; Provisions sandwich shop is a must-stop before any beach trip; and The Nautilus, which recently opened, serves Asian fusion dishes.
Martha’s Vineyard: For kayaking and paddle boarding, check out Island Spirit Kayak, located on State Beach close to the Edgartown/Oak Bluffs town line. The company offers hourly rentals and a variety of tours, like a sunset/moonlight kayak. Enjoy the calm waters of the barrier beach between Sengekontacket Pond and Nantucket Sound. The wetlands at Cape Pogue on Chappy Island are also a great place to explore via kayak or paddle board. And if surfing is your thing, you will find waves at South Beach and West Tisbury Long Point, which are both public beaches, and Lucy Vincent Beach, but it only has parking for residents.
Nantucket: Rent a kayak or paddle board through Sea Nantucket Paddle Sports, which will deliver your board or boat of choice to a vacation rental, various ponds, and the Harbor. The company also offers guides for groups paddling in the Salt Marsh Creeks (my personal favorite spot), to Coatue Point, and along the harbor shoreline. Also check out Paddle Nantucket’s various paddle board classes and pond tours. For surfing, the island has its own surf school, Nantucket Island Surf School on Cisco Beach, if you want to learn how to catch some waves.